January 7, 2012

Regulatory Common Sense

All too often, it seems like common sense is not nearly common enough. This is particularly true when new regulations are promulgated that create increasingly impossible standards for businesses struggling under the weight of a sluggish economy. Surprisingly, this is not a commentary about such legislation.

Instead, H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, is a rare, pragmatic bill. Introduced by Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), it protects aggregate producers, farmers, and other rural businesses from the uncertainty surrounding current and future regulation of rural dust.

“H.R. 1633 achieves two important goals: regulatory certainty in the short term and common sense for rural America in the long term. The bill maintains the current coarse particulate matter standard for one year — a position Lisa Jackson has embraced with her plans to propose maintaining the standard — and it offers regulatory relief to rural America by recognizing that states and local communities are better equipped to monitor and control farm dust,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in a press release. “EPA would no longer be in the business of regulating rural dust, except in cases where it is not already being regulated and the benefits of EPA regulation outweigh the costs.”

While EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said she is prepared to retain the current PM10 standard without revision, H.R. 1633 provides additional protection against further regulatory burden. And, it’s not surprising that many want that protection. More than 185 organizations have opposed changes in the dust regulations, and House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) named a more stringent dust standard as one of the administration’s top 10 job-destroying regulations.

In late October, Pete Lien, president of Pete Lien and Sons, Inc., testified on behalf of the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association and cautioned committee members about the costs needed to comply with further regulation. “Federal regulatory decision-makers must wield their authority with care, and should base regulatory decisions on published, peer-reviewed assessments of risk,” he said. “We are wary of rules that create more stringent or even unattainable standards without sufficient statistical, scientific, or analytical justification.”

I applaud the House for listening to Lien and advancing a bill that epitomizes what Upton called “government that works.” Now, let’s hope that the Senate has the common sense to pass it, and the President has the wisdom to sign it.


3 Things I Learned from this Issue

1. A certification creates an incentive for operators to use sustainable practices, page 25.

2. Hydraulic leaks aren’t as benign as many think, page 38.

3. To avoid citation, equipment must not only be maintained, but preserved from decline, page 46.

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